As I noted in various updates about delayed posts, I was back in Athens, Georgia this weekend. On the way over Friday, my GPS routed me a different way than usual, apparently due to a massive wreck on I-20.
The rerouting took me off I-20 at Lexington, South Carolina, taking me through painfully slow traffic in the bustling county seat before spitting me out on US-378 West, which wended its way towards the Upstate.
I then hit US-178 West towards Greenwood and Abbeville, transferring to various State roads. I eventually ended up on SC-72, heading through Calhoun Falls at the South Carolina-Georgia border.
At that point, SC-72 became GA-72, which took me through Elberton and Comer, Georgia, before depositing me in Athens.
As many of my readers are not from South Carolina—or even from this country!—let me translate that for you: I went through a lot of small towns in very rural parts of South Carolina and Georgia.
And it was a beautiful drive. If I weren’t already tied to Lamar (and didn’t already love it so much), I’d consider moving to Calhoun Falls. It’s very rural, but it sits at a wide point of the Savannah River. Driving over it felt more like driving over a large lake than it did a broad river. According to the map, it appears to be a confluence of the Savannah River and two lakes: Tate Lake and—I think—Lake Secession (gotta love South Carolina, where we have bodies of water named for leaving the Union).
I also saw more of Lexington, South Carolina, than I ever remembered seeing. Lexington is very close to my hometown of Aiken and to Columbia, where I attended college. Despite that proximity, I have not been to downtown Lexington very often—if ever!—and seeing it while sitting in traffic on Friday afternoon actually gave me a good sense for at least a portion of its city center. Lexington—the city and the county—are quite wealthy and densely populated, which turned up in the town’s amenities. I was particularly intrigued by a Thai restaurant with an ominously large, black door, which looks an awful lot like the gateway to some dungeon or medieval castle.
As for the mostly rural route, one thing that always strikes me is how people live in such extremely rural areas—and especially along federal highways. Naturally, most people used to live in very rural, isolated pockets, but that’s far from the norm now. The idea of living so close to a highway, too, has interested me: I would not want to live along one, but many people do. What is it like? Do high beams awake residents at night as they shine through through bedroom windows?
As for the sheer rurality, how often do residents get supplies? I’ve pondered this before, and I realize that most of the towns on this route were no more than twenty or thirty minutes from some county seat or developed area. Indeed, life in Lamar is a bit like that—we have the basic amenities, but some errands require a twenty- or thirty-minute trip one way to one of the larger neighboring communities.
Besides that, what do people do for a living? I think the availability of high-speed Internet and more telecommuting will make rural areas more attractive, but what do people who live in these tiny towns do now? I imagine many of them are engaged in health care and education, the two perennial jobs that are always present in poor, rural areas. But what of mechanics, machinists, and the like? There were a few garages near Calhoun Falls that specialized in pontoon boat sales and repairs—understandable given proximity to the water—but what other opportunities exist in such a place? Are there other opportunities?
Those thoughts aside, it was a lovely drive. Murphy snoozed in the backseat most of the trip, and I enjoyed an autumnal drive through the Upstate. The leaves haven’t quite turned yet, but they’re beginning to do so. Another couple of weeks and I imagine the route will be a golden paradise of falling leaves.
What back roads adventures have you taken recently? Leave a comment below!